Another year, another early round Scottish Cup tie at Linlithgow to enjoy. This was a third round replay, with the victors at home to Forfar Athletic in round four.
The tie itself had something of a tricky history. The first game in Wick was postponed 40 minutes prior to kick off, with away fans having made the wasted 500-odd mile round trip and Rose putting themselves up at no little expense in the Marine Hotel in Brora.
Postponement then followed postponement due to the waterlogged nature of Academy’s pitch, until a month after that late postponement the sides drew 2-2 at Harmsworth Park. Wick were behind for most of the match before bagging an injury time equaliser to take the tie back to the former palatial home of the Scottish monarchy.
I’d never experienced a tie played under floodlights at Prestonfield, my previous visits having mostly taken place during daylight hours. To say that the floodlights at Linlithgow bathed the ground in a luminous pool would be a lie, but they just about did the job.
There was a healthy crowd at Prestonfield with a few Wick fans having made the 13-hour round trip south, including some colurfully attired supporters. Rose’s starting line up included, alongside the stalwarts of Coyne and Shirra, former Hearts and Raith forward Graham “Mickey” Weir.
The men from Caithness showed no tiredness from their mammoth journey and took the lead early on, Sam Mackay finishing well with barely five minutes gone. Lithgae seemed a little unnerved by their opponents in defence but levelled after 20 minutes, Graham Weir finishing well after Batchelor’s good run and cross down the left.
The game then changed markedly after Wick midfielder Grant Campbell was sent off on 24 minutes. His challenge was reckless but a red was perhaps a little harsh. Having said that, Campbell almost asked the referee to make the difficult decision, and make it the referee did.
Nine minutes later, Lithgae were in front, with left back Ryan Baptie (or Batty on Livescore) obliging with a screamer from the edge of the area to make it 2-1, following a Rose set piece which went largely horribly wrong.
9 minutes before half time, Colin Strickland beat the Scorries’ keeper in the air from Weir’s cross to make it 3-1. There was no further action before half time and there was time for the 1000-plus crowd at Prestonfield to take a breath, and (for me) to indulge in an exemplary pie and Bovril.
The goals continued in the second half, Ruari MacLennan finishing well from the edge of the area on 52 minutes to make it 4-1, following some excellent hold-up play from Tommy Coyne on the edge of ‘e Scorries’ area.
5 minutes after the fourth Rose goal, Wick were down to 9 men. Davie Allan was shown a second yellow for diving, the first having been earned in stramash after Campbell’s red card challenge in the first half. One can imagine his manager not being too sympathetic with that red card. 5-1 swiftly followed the second red on 66 minutes, with Ruari MacLennan easily beating the offside trap to sidefoot past the away keeper.
Rose then mostly spent the remainder of the match as if they were in a slightly high intensity training match. Some lovely one touch passing moves were on show but no further goals were scored. To Wick’s credit they did not give up, with goalscorer Sam Mackay never stopping for the 90 minutes and coming close once or twice to reducing the deficit as the game trundled to a close.
In all, a largely solid performance from Rose, though they were perhaps given a hand by the referee. Had Wick kept 11 men on the park, they may have been able to gain more from their good spell in the first half. As it is, Linlithgow will face Forfar Athletic at Prestonfield on Saturday 9 January 2016.
Linlithgow Rose 5-1 Wick Academy (Weir, Batty, Strickland, R. MacLennan x 2; S. Mackay)